Thursday, October 30, 2014

Wizards vs Aliens - the (coming out) story so far

First let's take a closer look at what happened when Benny came out in series 2 episode: All Out War!

When Tom mentions that he'll need phone Katie to cancel his date with her on Saturday, this leads to more talk of dating. Tom mentions that Benny's never had a date and suggests he should ask out Tamsin Kuthu from Year 10. Benny responds by alluding to Newton's 3rd law of motion -

Benny: I'm the equal and opposite of you. In every way. Do you get it?

Benny: Equal and opposite, Tom. I'll go on a date, one day. Just not with her. Not with a girl. [In Poland the words "Not with a girl" were censored out in the dubbing]

Tom twigs what Benny has been trying to say, and takes the news very well. He seems pleased for Benny, but asks why he'd never mentioned it before.

Benny: It's the sort of thing you say at the end of the world.

Tom: No, it's not Benny .... You can say that sort of thing any day of the week!

Tom says he's now got a good reason to save the world - it's so that Benny can go on his first date.

The interesting thing here is that although Tom insists it's OK to talk about "that sort of thing any day of the week," neither Tom nor Benny actually use the word "gay" in their conversation. It's as if BBC Children's, in reality, still have issues about that particular word. Children, all too frequently, hear "gay" used in a pejorative context. But the opportunity to use "gay" in a positive way was, unfortunately, missed.

Towards the end of that episode Tom drinks magic from the "Salute" and, in doing so, attains great powers to change almost anything. He offers to change Benny, but the offer is turned down -

Benny: I'm happy as I am. I'm going to stay exactly like this.

It would be nice to think Wizards vs Aliens was always intended as part of a long-term diversity strategy on BBC children's TV. So far, though, it is the only CBBC drama in recent times to portray a gay teenager. And it's not yet clear whether Benny, despite the worthy equality message, will actually be treated as Tom's equal in series 3. Will CBBC viewers ever see Benny kissing a boyfriend in a scene which challenges this sort of heteronormativity?

At the start series 3 Tom & Benny return to school after the summer break which Benny has spent visiting the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The first series 3 episode, The Secret of Room 12, gives little cause for optimism on the inclusion front. But, of course, we could be in for a surprise.

Tom's dad: Maybe Benny can put you back on the straight and narrow, now he's back from America.

Quinn (right) greets Benny on his return from MIT in the United States

Saturday, October 25, 2014

It's all out war between the mainstream media (MSM) and the social media.

Mainstream media - all TV news channels in the UK, as well as the press - are generally content to toe the line of those in government and authority. Opinion on the social media is a lot more wide-ranging. Nowhere is this divide more evident than in the case of Madeleine McCann, the girl who went missing in Portugal in May 2007.

By and large, MSM accept the McCanns' version - that Madeleine was abducted by a stranger, and that they, the parents, were falsely accused of any involvement.

Most views expressed on Twitter and other social media take the opposite position, namely that Kate and Gerry McCann were responsible for their daughter's predicament. A smaller body of social media opinion supports the parents.

On 2nd October 2014 Sky News repeatedly broadcast a report throughout the day in which a 63-year-old lady, Brenda Leyland, was accused of "trolling" the McCanns. Reporter Martin Brunt said a dossier with her name, and the names of other McCann "trolls" was in the possession of the police. BBC News sensibly ignored the story, though it was briefly referenced in John Humphrys' interview with Gerry McCann on the Radio 4 Today programme which took place the following morning.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Normally BBC One's Rip Off Britain starts something like this -

Julia Somerville: We asked you to tell us who has left you feeling ripped off. And you contacted us in your thousands, by post, email, even stopping us on the street. And the message could NOT be clearer.

Person 1: There's too much focus on profit, and less on customer care.

Person 2: It's so hard to complain. Companies make it so difficult to complain.

Angela Rippon: You told us that with money tighter than ever, you need to be sure every pound you spend is worth it.

Person 3: All my money is very hard-earned. So when I go to spend it, I expect value for money.

Gloria Hunniford: So whether it's a deliberate rip-off, a simple mistake, or a catch in the small-print, we'll find out why you're out of pocket, and what you can do about it. Your stories, your money - This is Rip Off Britain.

This coming week the BBC will be doing a series of LIVE Rip Off Britain programmes from the Broadcasting House in London. And they've been asking viewers for stories to investigate.

Not sure if this is the sort of story they want to hear, but nevertheless they could try checking out some BBC staff expense claims. If, for example, a BBC employee claimed a train fare to attend a board meeting in Liverpool, you would naturally expect that the board meeting was with BBC colleagues to discuss BBC-related matters. But evidence unearthed by Newsround Blog suggests that you, the licence fee payer, might be mistaken in that belief.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

What do education campaigner Malala Yousafzai and music sensation Lorde have in common? Well, according to Ricky on this morning's Newsround, the answer is that they've just be named on a list of the world's most influential teenagers. President Obama's two daughters, Malia and Sasha, are also on the list.

In May 2012 the President cited his daughters' views as a factor in the decision to abandon his opposition to same-sex marriage. That story was widely reported, but not by CBBC Newsround.

Monday, October 13, 2014

One of Newsround's reports on Friday related to protest by young people in Hong Kong -

Hayley: ... but one place where people haven't heard much about it is next door in China, where people don't get the same information. ...

Newsround had a similar report about news censorship back in 2006. At that time this Blog suggested that people in glasshouses shouldn't throw stones. It was clear, then, that CBBC Newsround was censoring gay-related stories.

Despite substantial advances in British equality legislation since 2006, there have been only been minimal signs of Newsround moving towards a more inclusive approach as regards LGBT people. That is in very marked contrast to the excellent amount of coverage of stories about other minorities, in particular, the disabled. Here, for example, Ricky speaks to Sir Philip Craven about the way things have improved in sports.

Martin Dougan also frequently looks into what is being done to help make life better for people with disabilities, sometimes mentioning his own cerebral palsy as part of the report.

Whilst there's clearly still a problem with CBBC Newsround and LGBT information, the rest of the BBC and the UK's mainstream media have other unrelated censorship and news manipulation issues.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

It's National Coming Out Day, and CBBC Newsround is asking kids to say what rights they should have. They're told to ask permission before replying via email.

In my last blog I showed that the programme has often looked at animal rights. Now, if you want to know how much they've reported on gay rights, check out this Newsround website search.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Newsround this morning at 7.40am -

Ayshah: First to a big court case in America today that will decide if chimpanzees should have the same legal rights as people. An animal rights group in the US have brought the case because, they say, a 26 year-old chimp called Tommy is being unlawfully imprisoned by his owner in New York. It's believed to be the first case of its kind in the world. If they win it, it could lead to other cases being brought on behalf of animals.

Comments: Should animals have the same rights as people?

In fact the legal case is in a local court, so the outcome will not have as much impact as Newsround suggests. The programme frequently considers animal rights, as can be seen from a quick search of their website.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Same-sex dancing has been in the news this year, mainly as a result of the British Dance Council's proposal to change its rules. Their decision is expected towards the end of this month.

When the BBC announced that Scott Mills would be in this year's Strictly Come Dancing celebrity line-up, some people speculated that he might be paired with another male dancer - possibly Anton du Beke. But in the event it turned out the programme's producers chose Joanne Clifton as his dance partner.

According to Digital Spy, Scott said "Other gay people have done the show, like Julien Macdonald last year, and no-one said he should have a male dancer.

"I don't know why it's happened with me. I'll do what the producers want me to do. You don't have to dance with a man because you're gay."

Strictly is sometimes quite sexually charged as was evident on last night's show - in particular during Alison Hammond's dance routine. And as part of Scott and Joanne's dance, Joanne planted a great big smacker on his face.

Judging time, and Scott has telltale lipstick marks on his right cheek

Scott is reportedly content that the programme is not homophobic, though, of course, as a BBC employee he might not be totally impartial.

In July 2014 I was advised that there were no immediate plans for including same-sex pairings, but that the idea had not been ruled out for future shows. Viewers might have noticed a nod towards a more inclusive approach when the judges were introduced last night, as well as at the very end of the show.

Whereas BBC children's TV has been making determined efforts to become more diverse, for example with this report yesterday, it seems there is still one area of diversity that bosses are less happy about covering; when Newsround interviewed Scott Mills about Strictly any reference to the same-sex dancing issue, or even to his sexuality, was strictly off-limits!

Thursday, October 02, 2014

The BBC's mission of enriching people's lives with programmes and services that inform, educate and entertain took another knock yesterday when CBBC broadcast episode 18 of The Next Step. Newsround Blog is looking into the controversial circumstances surrounding acquisition of that dire Canadian TV series.

The screengrabs below include the broadcast subtitles.

James tells viewers that his "mom" has taken him out of the studio because she wants him to focus on his "math." His maths grades were slipping.

We then see him chatting to Riley and Chloe via webcam. Chloe explains that "everyone who's a part of A-Troupe has been taking shifts to help James with his math."

Chloe: (via webcam): What is cosecant?

James: Um, the inverse of cosine.

Chloe: Yes

Riley: Good

Chloe: Good job

In fact the correct answer is that cosecant is the inverse of sine - not cosine.

James says "It's important to pass, because if I pass it I get to go back to the studio. And I get a date with Riley."